Rick Hirsch has long received recognition for his art work, which explores the evolution of the vessel form through a contemporary twist on various cultural traditions. In the 1970’s and 1980’s, he reflected on and reinterpreted the aesthetics of ancient Chinese ritual bronze tripod vessels, choosing the Raku medium to echo their richly patinaed surfaces. In the 1990’s, Hirsch’s art continued to evolve with a transformation to larger sculptural vessels, incorporating numerous forms and implements from the history of human civilization, notably blades, mallets and the mortar and pestle,. Constantly expanding his ongoing, in-depth explorations into material, process and conceptual content, he has maintained a spirit of vitality which has kept his work fresh and compelling. For the past couple of decades, Hirsch has also incorporated forged iron, glass, and other mixed-media elements into his uniquely stacked and arranged series of vessel explorations, adding elements of lightness and transparency/translucency to create a visual and philosophical contrast to the opaque nature of clay.
From his early raku tripod vessels and teabowls to the more recent mixed-media vessels as sculptural investigations, Hirsch continues to demonstrate his unique vision and highly developed aesthetic sensibility and technical prowess. Like the greatest of master painters and sculptors, he has distilled images and influences from many sources -- ranging from those ancient Chinese bronzes to the modernist sculptures of Constantin Brancusi -- and his pieces breathe with the freshness of his vision and the energy of the creative processes that gave them life. In addition to reinterpreting tradition in new and innovative ways, he has consistently maintained an exceptionally high personal aesthetic in his art -- abstract explorations in space which question and examine our senses of scale, proportion, material and existence.
His major two career involvements -- creating an aesthetically strong body of unique art works and effectively teaching others to become dedicated artists -- are something which few artist/educators are capable of achieving simultaneously. Hirsch embodies the desired qualities of the ideal arts educator: knowledge in his field, tremendous enthusiasm and intelligence, a highly individualized and creative approach to his subject, and a genuine interest in sharing. But a truly effective educator in the fine arts requires much more -- namely, a strong personal commitment to one’s own art. In this regard, his personal enthusiasm for the arts and self-expression is matched by the same high enthusiasm he inspires in his students. For more than three decades, Hirsch has been a bridge to students from Asia, particularly Taiwan, Japan, and, most recently, The People’s Republic of China. Many of his students have gone on to significant careers throughout the world.
Rick Hirsch is among the leaders in the contemporary ceramic arts movement, working thoughout his life in the crucial decades following the “Ceramics Revolution” which has transformed this medium during the latter half of the Twentieth Century. His contributions have been truly inspirational and significant, and his continuing innovations push the materials he chooses to utilize into new and exciting territories.